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Julian McDaniel

MA Student


Julian received his B.A. in anthropology from the University of Tennessee in the Spring of 2019. He is currently working toward his M.A. in the department of anthropology. From 2016-2019, Julian was working on a research project with Dr. Raja Swamy  that explores the ways in which Hurricane Harvey has impacted the lives of residents living in Houston, Texas. Specifically, this work examines the historical production of Houston’s industrial landscape, the struggle for environmental justice and the workings of power in post-disaster contexts. The unequal distribution of damage following a disaster took center focus on this research.
This focus on the unequal distribution of damage facing marginalized communities has influenced his next research endeavor. His thesis work examines addiction and harm reduction efforts in Tennessee. In particular, his work points to the institutional failures that have led to an explosion of harm reduction efforts across Tennessee and the rest of Appalachia. This type of work includes advocating for the distribution of free Narcan, syringe exchanges, counseling, peer support, medical attention and, above all else, organizing mutual aid efforts to support PUDs (people who use drugs.) His thesis provides a substantial critique of the neoliberal co-optation of harm reduction, which has been institutionalized and still relies on a punitive model that disciplines addicts with the hopes that they fit an “ideal type” of what it means to be a citizen. His thesis also focuses on the anarchist history that eventually birthed the modern harm reduction movement. Through ethnographic engagement with autonomous anarchist care workers, interviews with medical professionals, and conversations with actual medical professionals operating in these “neoliberal” recovery centers. The overall goal of this project is to point to the fact that many PUDs wind up becoming entangled with law enforcement and other punitive practices that seek to discipline addicts instead of rehabilitating them, teaching them new ways of life and preparing them for a life that is not centered around the consumption of narcotics. Most houseless people are unable to meet the institutional demands that these projects demand. Harm reduction differs in this way because harm reductionists “meet people where they are at,” which includes advocating for PUDs (especially those who are houseless,) offering transportation to sites of recovery, offering resources to those who are in need (including wound care and other street-based medical practices, fighting for the end of the housing crisis, etc. Julian is interested in uncovering the ways in which the neoliberal model of harm reduction actually reinforces and reproduces the conditions in which one might resort to using drugs again.  A truly anarchist-influenced harm reduction practice seems to be the most effective at combatting the drug epidemic.


Research interests: Critical theory, drug and alcohol studies, social inequalities, harm reduction, anarchist theory and praxis, addiction, mutual aid and clandestine responses to state terror and racialized inequalities.

Thesis Project on Harm Reduction (underway)